In 2020, DC will be mostly about politics, not legislation

This is around the time of the winter break that children have busted most of the toys they acquired for Christmas and mom and dad can't wait for the kids to go back to school.

It kind of works this way in Congress, too.

Everyone has played with all of the toys over the holidays. Everyone has tired of their toys or broken them. And lawmakers start to get antsy to head back to Capitol Hill. We conceivably have another week-and-a-half or more of the interregnum.

No votes are scheduled in the Senate until January 6. Nothing in the House until January 7. However, the prospects of a Senate trial – and any potential negotiations between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) loom. And no one has any clue exactly what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is up to, clinging to the articles of impeachment adopted earlier this month by the House. The House has to vote to send the articles over to the Senate. If and when the Speaker will ever send the articles to the Senate remains unclear.

So everyone in Washington is focused on a Senate trial and if there will ever be a Senate trial. How long it goes. Who testifies. If there are ever any GOP defectors. At this stage, there’s still no chance the Senate convicts and removes President Trump.

So, what does Congress have on its docket this year once the impeachment trial wraps up?

Frankly, not a lot when it comes to significant legislation.

The Senate still needs to sync up with the House and approve the USMCA. McConnell says the Senate won’t tackle that until the trial is complete. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) scheduled a “markup” session for early January to prep the USMCA for the floor. If the articles of impeachment remain in abeyance, it’s possible the Senate could turn to the trade pact sooner rather than later.

The government is now funded through September 30, 2020. The Senate will likely focus on confirming more judges. House Democrats will return to their “For the People” agenda, promoting voting rights, bolstering election security and curbing firearm violence. Any future Supreme Court vacancy could make the confirmation battle over Justice Brett Kavanaugh look like Joe Burrow picking apart the Oklahoma secondary.

There’s just not a lot of big-ticket legislative items on the docket.

2020 will be about politics. House and Senate elections and certainly the presidency.

It’s hard to judge if the House is in play.

Even learned Republicans concede to Fox that there aren’t many pathways to the majority for the GOP this fall – even with impeachment. They note that’s why there are so many retirements by House Republicans.

Certainly everyone will focus on the (now) 29 House Democrats who voted to impeach President Trump who represent districts Mr. Trump carried in 2016. The figure had been 31 Democrats who occupied districts the President won. But Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ) opposed the articles and switched parties. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) voted nay on both articles. Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME) split his votes, supporting impeachment on the abuse of power article and opposing the article dealing with obstruction of Congress. Republicans will certainly target those Democrats who backed impeachment. But it’s unclear if votes in favor of impeachment could be enough to flip the House to Republican control.

House Democrats will continue to pursue a host of investigations into the Trump Administration and litigate subpoenas to get various officials to testify or provide documents. And, there is chatter that the House may not be done with impeachment articles. House Democrats are leaving the door open to potentially pursue additional charges down the road.

Meantime, Democrats are already targeting the Senate as the “legislative graveyard” for dozens of bills approved by the House. Democrats are prepared to turn up the heat against the Republican-controlled Senate. Democrats will also make an issue over how “fair” a Senate trial may be and what that means for at-risk GOP senators from battleground states: Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Joni Ernst (R-IA) and maybe even Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), David Perdue (R-GA) and Sen.-designate Kelly Loeffler (R-GA).

Meantime, expect Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Grassley at the Finance panel to ramp up their inquiries into the 2016 election, FISA abuse, Ukraine and the Bidens.

And, the GOP Senate brass may try to engineer some challenging votes in 2020 to trip up the Democratic presidential contenders who serve in the Senate: Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Michael Bennet (D-CO). And, consider if one of those senators becomes the Democratic presidential nominee. Senate Republicans will weaponize roll call votes to get those senators on the record on controversial issues. Plus, Republicans will concoct problematic roll call votes to make vulnerable Democratic senators sweat: think Sens. Doug Jones (D-AL), Gary Peters (D-MI), Tina Smith (D-MN) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

And then there is President Trump. Without question, the President is the biggest factor on Capitol Hill in 2020. He always is. The President’s rallies, speeches, tweets and visits with Graham and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) will dictate the political contours of Capitol Hill throughout the year. And buckle in if there is yet another White House conclave with the President and Pelosi sometime in the next 12 months. The last two episodes have imploded in phenomenal fashion.

And, if the Democratic presidential nominee comes from the Senate, the President will direct a lot of ire toward the other end of Pennsylvania Ave.

So, it’s around that time of the holidays. Most of the toys from Christmas are broken. The batteries are dead. The kids are bored. People are itching to get back to Washington and stir things up.

2020 is an election year. And so 2020 will be mostly about politics and not about legislation.